Tips for Mastering Long-Form Content

The vast majority of web content is short: listicles of a few hundred words, Snapchats that disappear, tweets with character limits, web pages with more images than the copy.

And yet, long-form content—typically 1,000 words or more—is extremely important to both industrial marketers and their audience of engineers and technical professionals.

You might be able to grab attention with shorter content, but serious prospects want to dig deeper than a social media post or a list of bullet points. They want to know that you understand and can solve their problem. They want to make sure your company is legit and you know your industry and technology. While it’s true that a smaller percentage of engineers will take the time for a long read into a topic, those that do are more likely to be very qualified.

In addition, search engines love the long-form. It’s not enough to focus on keywords—you have to position yourself as a relevant authority. And most of the time, you can’t make an authoritative case in a short piece. Authoritative content can help marketers achieve higher search engine page rankings.

With long-form content, you can dominate a subject matter in a way that provides value to your audience. You become the expert and thought leader that readers depend on for important information on a key topic.

Choose a Subject Appropriate to Long Form

Not all subjects lend themselves to long form. Some that do include:

  • How-to articles: Go into detail about how to perform a task or solve a problem.
  • Research reports: Compile primary and secondary research into a report on market trends or user preferences.
  • White papers: Provide your audience with a comprehensive education on a topic relevant to them.
  • Solution guides: Compare or classify different approaches to solving a problem.
  • Technical documents: Explain the way a product or process works.
  • Case studies: In-depth case studies lend themselves to longer form.

Stick to a Pattern of Development

When writing long-form, choose a pattern of content development that is proven to work for making technical content easier to understand and retain. Here are several approaches. Choose one that is appropriate for your needs:

  • Step by step. A staple of industrial marketing content is the step-by-step tutorial that demonstrates how to use a product or explains a technical process. You might find that each step along the way has associated benefits. Why not mention the benefit of each step as a way to reinforce your value-propositions while providing educational information?
  • Classification. If you want to present an organized discussion of parallel items, you can classify the information that shares common characteristics. For example, if you are writing about industrial adhesives, you might group those that are made for bonding wood, for bonding metal and bonding plastic.
  • Comparisons. Engineers often must choose among competing products or alternative strategies. You can compare and contrast the key features of different products or approaches. Focus on the most important points. Avoid comparing minor details.
  • Cause and effect. This pattern of development can help persuade readers, for example, why using old products or technology can be detrimental, or to help readers understand the effect of increased water flow on pump performance. In this case, you are describing a situation that has a cause (increased water flow) and an effect (pump performance).
  • Problem-Solution. You can use problem-solution persuasively when you want your readers to agree that the actions you recommend will solve the problems they are trying to overcome.

Tell a Story

Even technical content lends itself to a good story with a beginning, middle, and end. A good story has a hero—such as your customer. The hero faces a problem that is costing money and time, and you step in with the solution to save the day. Corny? Not really. Customer testimonials and case studies are sought after by prospects and are highly effective in helping make technical concepts relatable.

Include an Executive Summary

Be kind to your readers and let them know in a brief executive summary the entire gist of your content. A one-paragraph summary of the piece can help readers quickly glean the main points and decide if investing additional time is appropriate for them.

Design with Your Reader in Mind

Long-form content requires commitment on the part of your reader. You can help them by using short paragraphs, subheadings, white space, bullet points, and imagery to make your long content easy to read and encourage readers to keep going.

Develop a Cornerstone Piece

A cornerstone long-form piece can be segmented into smaller, standalone chunks to use in your content marketing efforts. Repurposing long content into shorter pieces saves time, spreads a consistent message, and meets the needs of engineers who can’t or won’t invest the time required to digest long-form content.

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Seven Ways Content Can Make You More Competitive

Seven Ways Content Can Make You More Competitive

Seven Ways Content Can Make You More Competitive

The rise of the digital era has in many ways increased competition in the industrial sector and leveled the playing field between small and large companies. Smaller companies with a robust online presence have more opportunities than ever to attract an engineering audience, while larger companies can defend their brand and market positions.

But one way for a company of any size to rise above its competitors is to use content to its advantage. Here are seven ways content can give your marketing efforts a lift.

1. Educate, Don’t Sell

When it comes to producing content, consider the Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. In other words, you don’t want the hard sell, and neither do engineers. What they want is educational information: facts, statistics, information, objectivity. They want to learn how to do their jobs better, not get pressured into buying something they may or may not need to complete a project.

The more you make your content educational, the more helpful you are to your audience, and the more likely they will turn your way.

2. Right Content, Right Channels

Engineers use a variety of content types and access that content through several different preferred channels. According to the 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers research report, datasheets, case studies, white papers, and product demo videos top the list as the most valuable content types engineers use.

To maintain and advance their professional skills, engineers gravitate toward content such as online training courses, webinars, and white papers, as reported in the 2021 Pulse of Engineering.

With many tradeshows and in-person events canceled over the past year due to the pandemic, the most popular channels for accessing information are supplier/vendor websites, online trade publications, publication email/e-newsletters, and vendor email/e-newsletters.

Make these content types and channels part of your marketing mix and you might be able to separate your company from the pack.

3. Fill the Knowledge Gap with Content

The Pulse of Engineering report also found that a major concern for industrial companies is the knowledge and expertise that is lost when employees leave the company. Many do not have formal processes for preserving and passing on domain knowledge. Savvy suppliers and vendors can help fill the knowledge gap and become important allies to their customers by providing valuable content through online training courses, webinars, and white papers.

4. Use Gated Content to Build Your Database

Sometimes the best defense against the competition is a comprehensive database of customers and prospects. While some companies are hesitant to gate content behind forms in fear of turning away potential prospects, engineers are willing to fill out forms for highly technical content. White papers and CAD drawings are the most popular premium pieces of content. Video tutorials, webinars, and product configurators are also desired by technical buyers. Our research shows that engineers are most likely to fill out contact information forms for these valuable resources.

5. Produce Content for the Entire Buying Cycle

Research consistently shows engineers rely upon online content heavily during the buying process. Online content supports over 50 percent of the buyer’s journey, as reported in the 2021 State of Marketing to Engineers. Sixty-two percent of respondents complete more than half of the buying process online, and when looking at engineers age 45 and under, the online journey lengthens to over seventy percent.

Make sure you have plenty of content such as educational articles, white papers, videos, webinars, and technical documentation for the early phases of the engineer’s buy cycle when they are analyzing their needs and searching for potential suppliers and products. Content such as ROI calculators, case studies, and warranty policies can help close the deal later in the buying cycle.

6. Keep Producing Content

Content isn’t something you pay attention to only at the beginning of the year or to support specific events such as product launches. Content marketing is an ongoing process of producing, repurposing, posting, and tracking content. Your audience as well as search engines are both hungry for fresh, relevant technical content. You have to keep feeding the beast to rise above.

7. Stay on Message and Brand

Is your content consistent in its messaging as well as its look and feel? Even when you have a variety of content types, your company’s brand essence and key messaging points should come through on each piece. Consistency and continuity of content help engineers identify and remember you. Find the common threads that are important and stitch them into all of your content.

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Six Tips to Get the Best Return from Your Webinars

One of the key reasons why webinars are an effective marketing tactic is that your attending audience tends to be motivated and interested. Think about it: they are taking 30 minutes to an hour or so out of their busy day to listen to your message and interact with your presenters. That takes a lot more effort on their part than, for instance, scanning an email or reading a web page.

If you aren’t already, you should integrate webinars into your marketing mix. If you currently are using webinars, you can make them stronger and more successful. Here are six tips (plus a bonus!) on how to be efficient and earn a higher return on your webinar efforts.

siemens plm software
WeBINARS ATTRACT MOTIVATED AND ENGAGED ENGINEERS AND TECHNICAL PROFESSIONALS. mAKE THEM WORK EVEN HARDER FOR YOU WITH THESE SIX TIPS.

1. Leverage content you already have

You might have an existing presentation from an industry conference, technical report, white paper, product demo, customer testimonial or other content that can make a strong foundation for a webinar or at least help generate ideas for a webinar. You don’t have to start from scratch every time. Another benefit of leveraging existing content is that it helps you deliver a consistent message to the market.

2. Be clear on your topic and the audience you want to reach

You need to be honest with your audience on what to expect during your webinar or they will lose trust in your brand and company. Webinars are ideal to deliver thought leadership content. If your webinar is about how additive manufacturing is transforming the automotive industry, then it shouldn’t be about your 3D printers. It’s standard practice for the host or sponsor of a webinar to deliver a brief promotion about its products. However, if you want to devote an entire webinar to the benefits of your products, then that needs to be clear in your webinar promotions.

Before creating your webinar, you not only need to define your topic but also the audience you wish to attract. Leveraging your existing content can again provide an advantage here. For example, you might invite everyone who downloaded a certain white paper to a webinar on a topic related to the white paper. That way, you are matching topic to audience, and will increase the likelihood of keeping your audience engaged.

3. Promote the webinar through multiple channels

First follow the tip above about identifying your topic and the audience you want to attract, and then determine the best channels to promote your webinar. Your in-house email list is a likely choice as are your own website and social media platforms. You might consider reaching farther out to connect with a wider audience, as long as your content is relevant to them. Advertising in industry-specific e-newsletters is an effective way to reach a potentially new, yet still targeted audience. If you are working with a partner on the webinar, reach out to their email list in addition to your own. For an even broader audience, try promoting your webinar through banner ads on industrial websites, distributing press releases, or posting on your directory listings.

4. Generate new content during the live webinar

Today’s webinar hosting platforms offer sophisticated features such as real-time polls and live Q & A. Not only can you deliver educational content to your audience, you can capture content from your audience in return. Poll questions can serve as effective transitions between topics, help involve your audience, and return to you valuable information. You can display answers in real-time and offer comments on the results, making the webinar even more interactive. After the webinar, results of your polls can be the basis for blog articles, social media postings, infographics and more.

At the end of the webinar, you will typically leave time for a question and answer period. Again, you can gain valuable information from your audience based on the questions they ask. You might be able to use this content to create an FAQ document to share on your blog, website and through social media.

5. Extend the shelf life of your webinar content

Your webinar content can remain useful long after the live event itself is over. You can archive the webinar on your website for on-demand viewing. Post it to YouTube or SlideShare. Write a blog post re-cap of the event. These other channels provide an opportunity for those in your audience who missed or didn’t know about the webinar to access the content. On-demand availability also gives you another opportunity to reach out to your email list (Sorry we missed you, now you can view the webinar at your convenience…). You can reasonably ask for registration information from visitors who want to view recorded webinars, resulting in additional engagement opportunities for you.

6. Follow-up with attendees

An engineer or technical professional who attended your webinar has demonstrated an active interest in your content. Be sure to have in place a marketing process to stay in touch with those attendees. Some of them might have expressed enough interest to qualify as a good engagement opportunity for your sales team; others may be better suited to a longer-term nurturing program. However you score these opportunities, be sure to deliver relevant content to them based on their interest in your webinar topic.

Bonus: Sponsor a webinar featuring an industry thought leader

If you would like to take advantage of the engagement opportunities generated by a webinar, without putting together and executing the actual presentation, you may want to consider sponsoring a webinar delivered by an expert in your industry.

These types of webinars are usually on a pre-determined topic (although the sponsor may have some input) and feature a trusted authority in the market presenting on a topic of interest to your audience.

The sponsor receives branding and association with the expert’s thought leadership as well as exposure to an audience they might not otherwise have attracted to their content.

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Learn more about webinar solutions from IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions.

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Five Ways to Boost Your Content Marketing Efforts

Eighty-six percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing as a tactic, according to the Content Marketing Institute. However, in the industrial sector, some marketers are still struggling with content marketing.

The 2014 Trends in Industrial Marketing survey reported that just:

  • 29 percent of industrial marketers have a content marketing strategy
  • 15 percent of industrial marketers align their content with the different phases of their customers’ buy cycle.
  • Nine percent can demonstrate how content marketing contributes to sales.

These results reveal valuable opportunities for industrial companies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their content marketing efforts.

To boost your content marketing efforts, here are five guidelines you can follow:

content marketing800

1. Develop a strategy
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the need to create content when your audience is hungry to consume your good content. You need white papers, webinars, videos, articles, blog posts and so on. But first you need a content strategy. If you put time and resources into planning, developing, delivering and managing relevant content for your target audience, you’ll get better results.

Determine your objectives for content marketing. Is it to raise brand awareness? Educate prospects? Position your company as thought leaders? Generate engagement opportunities? Once you know your objectives, you can plan what type of content will work best to achieve those objectives. You can also make sure your content strategy fits your available budget and resources for the year.

2. Use an editorial calendar
Develop a content calendar at the beginning of the year, so you won’t be panicking later when trying to come up with content ideas. Start at a high level of planning by coming up with 12 monthly topics for the upcoming year. Choose broad themes that are aligned with your content marketing objectives and are relevant to your audience. Add any major milestones to the calendar that may require intensive content, such as online events or webinars or key announcements. Then, once a quarter, flesh out each week with specific ideas, such as how-to videos, blog posts or white paper ideas.

Also be flexible enough to adjust as situations arise. There could be a new trend or major news impacting your industry and you may want to respond with an article, press release or blog post.

3. Re-purpose content
Re-purposing content not only saves time it helps you deliver a consistent message to your audience of technical professionals. As you plan a piece of content, consider all the formats and channels you can use. For example, a blog post is a great way to test new ideas or points of view on industry issues. Some of these posts might lend themselves to longer, more detailed articles on solving problems or explaining technical processes. Or the content of a white paper can be re-purposed into a webinar. A video interview with a customer could become a case study.

4. Align content to the buy cycle
The industrial buy cycle can be long and complex, and include distinct stages from needs awareness to evaluation and consideration, and finally to a purchase decision. Your audience needs different types of content at different stages.

For example, in the early stages, engineers may be searching to find out what suppliers and products in the marketplace have a good reputation and can meet their needs. Articles, white papers, e-newsletters, webinars and online events are all sources of information for technical professionals in these early stages. In the later stages, when customers are close to a buying decision, they may want content such as detailed specification sheets, ROI calculators, specific case studies and service and support information.

Because prospects often don’t contact a supplier until they are close to making a buying decision, you need to publish robust, relevant content for the early buy cycle stages in order to get known and get on a potential customer’s short list for when they do decide to make contact.

5. Demonstrate results
With digital media, many metrics are available to track the effectiveness of your content marketing. Page views, clicks, shares, downloads, conversions and more can all be counted. These types of metrics will tell you about the popularity of any given piece of content, but this is only part of the equation when it comes to demonstrating results. You probably need to take a more holistic view.

Technical professionals will likely interact with your content a number of times before reaching the point where they are ready to make purchase decision. Each one of those interactions and each piece of content they access contribute to the sale. Therefore, tracking your customers through their journey by capturing their interactions with your content is a smart way to demonstrate results. You’ll be able to see how your broader content strategy is working and spot trends showing what types of content most often contribute to a sale.

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How to Craft Content for the Three Types of Industrial Buyers

The industrial buy cycle can be long and complex, and can involve any number of recommenders, influencers, gatekeepers and decision makers who all have a say in the final purchase decision. It’s a daunting task for a marketer to create content and design communications that are relevant and that resonate with these various audience types.

To make your job easier, you can segment all of those involved on the customer side into one of three buyer types: the analytical buyer, the economic buyer and the technical buyer. Speak to the needs and interests of these three types of buyers and you can simplify your communication efforts while increasing your opportunities for winning the deal.

industrial buyers

The Analytical Buyer: Will it Solve My Problem?
The analytical buyer is the technical professional who has a problem to solve. They need, for example, an oscillating pump or a diode laser or a circuit board to perform a specific function. The analytical buyer is often the first point of contact your company has with a potential customer. They’re the person who has performed initial research to identify the suppliers, products or components that could meet their needs.

The biggest question on the analytical buyer’s mind is whether your product or service will solve their problem. They’re asking: What functions does the product perform? What are its specifications? Why is your product better than another product? Or: How does your service meet my needs?

Analytical buyers want facts and solutions. They respond to content such as demos, how-to videos, problem-solving webinars, and white papers.

The Economic Buyer: Will We Earn ROI?
The economic buyer’s greatest concern is return on investment. They often have significant sway in any large or long-term purchase. Economic buyers asking that if their company buys your product or service, will the return they earn in terms of economic benefit be higher than the price they pay?

The benefits to economic buyers might be measured in terms of expected time savings, increased efficiency, uptime, product lifespan, reliability, warranties, opportunity cost (if they purchase your product over a competitive one, how do they gain or lose) or other factors.

Effective content for the economic buyer might be interactive ROI calculators, case studies showing demonstrated success and benefits other customers have achieved, analyst reports, depreciation schedules, and executive briefs. The content should be numbers oriented and benefit focused.

The Technical Buyer: Is it the Right Fit for Our Company?
The technical buyer is often behind the scenes and may not come into play early in the buy cycle. They are concerned with the bigger picture of whether your product, component or service will fit into the larger technical infrastructure, environment or policies at their company. For example: Are your products compatible with other products the customer uses? Do your products integrate well or will modifications elsewhere be necessary? How is support provided? These questions are particularly relevant with software and hardware purchases, but also for other industrial products.

Fitting into environment also includes questions such as: Is this kind of company we want to do business with? If the customer has a policy to prefer suppliers that engage in “green” business practices, or that manufacture only in the United States, you’ll find this out from the technical buyer. Also, if the customer requires a certain type of support, such as on-site or 24/7, the technical buyer as well as the analytical buyer will be looking for that type of information.

Technical buyers want specifications, but they also want to see your policies and procedures. They can nix a sale for any number of reasons, and so you’ll have to produce content that answers their questions.

The Buyers Together
You might produce individual pieces of content for each type of buyer or you might try to communicate with all your audiences at once. There are no set rules other than to be clear and relevant to your customers and to address their concerns: Does your product do the job well, deliver required benefits, and fit seamlessly into their environment?

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Three Tips for a More Effective Multichannel Strategy

With engineers and technical professionals using a variety of digital resources for work related purposes, industrial marketers must deploy a multichannel strategy to attract new customers and connect with current ones. But it takes more than simply placing advertising in different digital media channels.

Instead, you must be able to deliver a seamless, consistent experience across multiple channels in order to build confidence and trust among your target audience and increase opportunities to win business.

Being consistent and seamless requires that the attributes and value of your brand come across to your customers at all times, on all channels. Many customers might be exposed to your company through multiple channels: e-newsletters, websites, online catalogs, webinars, online events, banner ads and more.

You don’t have to—and shouldn’t want to—use the exact same message across channels, or make all your creative and layout look the same, but you should find the appropriate threads to weave through your marketing that will cause potential customers to recognize and understand your brand at every digital touch point. Here’s how:

Cross Media Multiplier Effect

1. Anticipate multiple exposures
There’s a theory that a potential customer has to interact with your company up to seven times before they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. If you’re truly deploying a multichannel strategy, you should work under the assumption that engineers and technical professionals will be exposed to your company numerous times across multiple digital channels.

For example, the person who sees your ad in an e-newsletter might click through to your website and later might view a video on your YouTube channel and read one of your tweets or blog posts. Provide visual consistency by using similar colors, layouts, fonts and other design elements across channels and content.

Provide message consistency by reminding your audience of your brand value. How do you want your audience to perceive you: Are you a technology innovator? A low-cost provider? Known for stellar customer service? Find a way to reinforce your major brand message, even if the specific marketing campaign is more focused.

2. Plan your content
Be the company that is always putting out fresh content on multiple digital channels. The latest news on your products or trends in the industry. A new white paper, video or webinar. If you strive to constantly refresh your content, it will be easier to maintain consistency and deliver a seamless experience across channels.

In addition, create a schedule for publishing content so that you know when and where your content will appear. This will help you avoid, for example, having last month’s story still promoted on your social media platforms while this week’s e-newsletter concerns itself with more recent topics. Remember that not every channel has to carry the same message or news (which would be dull), but they do have to work together and you have to be aware of what’s appearing where.

3. Tie it all back to your website
A good portion of your marketing effort is likely devoted to funneling customers to your website where they can accept your offers, make a purchase, contact you or interact with your company, brand and content in other ways. Whether a potential customer is exposed to your company through a banner ad, e-newsletter, online catalog, social media post or other channel, every potential customer that clicks through to your website should immediately recognize something familiar, whether it’s a message you want to continually reinforce or a consistent look and feel you want to promote.

If you integrate all the components of your multichannel marketing strategy in these ways, not only will you provide a consistent, seamless and memorable experience to your target audience, you will create the impression of being everywhere in the digital sphere. Customers will see and recognize your presence, which will help form a stronger and longer lasting connection with your brand, company and products.

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5 Tips to Turn Your Website into a Customer Magnet

Technical professionals use a wide range of digital resources to search for suppliers, products and components. That’s why you need a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that creates a broad and deep online presence to connect with customers and prospects. Online catalogs, e-newsletters, webinars, social media, content marketing, search engine optimization and banner advertising all have a place in your marketing portfolio. At the hub of this interdependent marketing universe is your company website.

woman at laptop800

Driving customers and prospects to your website, and keeping them engaged once they get there, will help keep your audience connected to your brand and your company and products top of mind when customers are ready to buy. Here are the top tips for turning your website into a hub of productive customer activity.

1. Provide links to relevant pages
Use your other marketing channels, such as e-newsletter ads, social media or directory listings to drive technical professionals to specific pages on your website. It doesn’t have to be the home page, which is often a general page, but instead a page related directly to the message that motivated the click. It could be a custom landing page or another page that resides deeper in your site. For example, an e-newsletter ad or a directory listing for a specific product should link to a landing page about that product. A social media entry can link to your latest blog post.

2. Give reasons to explore
If a customer lands on a page other than your home page, make it easy to explore related content. You can do this by providing clear and simple navigation options and by grouping related content so that it’s easy to find. Secondary content columns can show related links, such as white papers related to the page topic or links to complementary products or services. From any page a visitor should be no more than one click away from accessing your contact information. A search box can help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for.

3. Offer more
Encourage your audience to stay engaged with your brand. Try these tactics: Offer downloads (with or without registration forms, depending on your strategy), invite customers to follow you on social media or subscribe to your newsletter, add polls or short surveys to solicit their opinions and collect useful data, and prompt technical professionals to view archived webinars or read your latest piece of thought leadership. Try adding live chat functionality or creating a discussion area for customers to interact with each other or your subject matter experts. Some visitors will naturally explore your site once they arrive, but most will need to be encouraged and offered information they find valuable.

4. Keep updating
Why does anyone visit a website on a regular basis? Answer: Because there’s something new to discover. Outdated or stale content will drive your audience away and can even damage your reputation and brand. Make a focused effort to keep content fresh and to add new content on a regular basis. The weekly blog post, the monthly webinar, the new offer—promote these items in e-mails and on social media to entice your customers and prospects back to your site on a regular basis. Also, you should audit your existing website content at least twice a year for accuracy and currency, and purge or update any content that is outdated or no longer relevant.

5. Be responsive
More and more technical professionals are using mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones for work-related purposes, but not all websites render well on mobile devices. If your site is too difficult to use on a mobile device, your customer might click away. The next time you’re refreshing or replacing your website, create a website that is “responsive” in design, which means that navigation and pages will automatically render in a way that optimizes the experience on a mobile device. At the least consider creating responsive landing pages that are tied to marketing campaigns such as e-newsletter ads or white paper offers.

Your company website shouldn’t be your only marketing channel, but it can serve as the hub for your marketing strategy. Your goals should be to drive customers to your site, give them reasons to stay, and motivate them to engage with you.

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Survey: Industrial Marketers Must Optimize their Digital Mix

The good news is industrial marketers are making the evidence-based decision to invest more in online marketing. On the other hand, they still need to optimize their digital mix. This was one of the key findings from IHS GlobalSpec’s latest research report, 2014 Trends in Industrial Marketing, based on a recent survey of marketing and sales professionals in the industrial sector.

2014 Trends Industrial Marketing

The results provide new insight into the strategies, budgets and tactics industrial marketers use today.

Here are the highlights:

Diversifying the marketing mix
Currently, corporate websites command about 25 percent of online budgets, which amounts to more than twice the spending on any other channel. There’s no question your company website is important and will continue to be, but establishing and maintaining a broad and deep online presence is critical in this age of digital disruption, when technical professionals have at their disposal a variety of digital resources to find the work-related information they seek. Your target audience doesn’t primarily rely on a single channel, so why should you? Industrial marketers should consider shifting a portion of their budget to other online channels such as e-newsletters, webinars and banner advertising on industry websites.

Playing catch-up to customer behavior
Forty-nine percent of industrial companies are increasing their online marketing budgets, but on average less than half (46 percent) of the overall marketing budget is spent online. While this online marketing percentage is up from 40 percent last year and 32 percent back in 2007, it still may not be enough to keep pace with the behavior of your customers. It may also be a contributing factor to the level of satisfaction industrial marketers feel about their online marketing efforts. Twenty-nine percent are still dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their online marketing efforts and 40 percent are feeling neutral.

Customer acquisition is still king
Year over year, customer acquisition tops the list of marketing goals in the industrial sector. Almost half (47 percent) of industrial marketers said customer acquisition is their primary marketing goal in 2014, up from 38 percent in 2012. Related to customer acquisition is lead generation; 29 percent of industrial marketers say it is the biggest challenge in their profession. In addition, customer acquisition is a key measurement of success for 55 percent of companies, along with sales attributed to marketing campaigns (64 percent) and leads (47 percent).

Preferred marketing channels
E-mail marketing using in-house lists, tradeshows, content marketing and search engine optimization are the top marketing channels in the industrial sector. Direct mail using rented/purchased lists, mobile marketing and podcasts are at the bottom of the list. Five of the top six channels used are digital channels, indicating that many marketers understand the importance of devoting resources to a mix of digital channels. Fifty-five percent say they use both inbound (pull) and outbound (push) marketing programs but state they could better diversify their mix.

Content marketing efforts must mature
Sixty-one percent of industrial marketers are now using content marketing as tactic and 54 percent are planning to increase their spending on content creation. This reflects marketers’ understanding that their prospects and customers are hungry for relevant content that will help them do their jobs better and make informed buying decisions. On the other hand, 44 percent of marketers are just getting started with content marketing, just 29 percent have a content marketing strategy, only nine percent can demonstrate how content marketing contributes to sales and only 15 percent align their content with the different phases of their customers’ buy cycle. These results reveal the need for industrial companies to mature their content marketing efforts in order to be more efficient and effective.

Marketers are more social-media savvy
Industrial marketers have gotten more savvy in how they use social media. They are now focusing their efforts on those objectives that social media best fulfills. Seventy-eight percent use social media for branding and 72 percent for content delivery. Only 34 percent use social media to generate leads, down from 59 percent in 2011. The most popular social media channel is LinkedIn. Twenty-seven percent are satisfied with their social media efforts, up from 17 percent in 2012. As industrial marketers continue to get more comfortable using social media and understanding its place in their marketing mix, they will likely achieve better results and their level of satisfaction will continue to increase.

Marketing budgets are steady
Over the past three years, marketing budgets have remained constant. Thirty-five percent are spending more in 2014 than they did in 2013; only 17 percent expect to spend less in 2014. About half are spending the same. For those companies with marketing budgets of $1 million or less, the average marketing budget is $166,000. Forty-two percent of companies have marketing budgets under $50,000 and 12 percent of companies have marketing budgets greater than $1 million. Forty-one percent of industrial marketers are spending at least half of their 2014 budgets for online marketing.

This annual survey can help you evaluate your marketing strategies in relation to your competitors, fine-tune your marketing programs and keep pace with your customers and the market. For complete survey results, along with recommendations for industrial marketers, download your complimentary copy of 2014 Trends in Industrial Marketing.

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How to Respond to the Evolving Industrial Buy Cycle

Recent research has shown that the widespread availability and use of digital resources is resulting in changes to how technical professionals approach their buy cycle. The stages of the cycle are still the same, but the timing of contact between buyer and seller has changed.

The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages: Research & Needs Analysis, Comparison & Evaluation and Purchase. The cycle can be long and complex, involving multiple decision makers, recommenders and influencers; or it can be short and straightforward, with a single person presiding over a purchase decision. However, regardless of length or complexity, the buy cycle is evolving.

Technical professionals today use digital resources at every stage of their buy cycle, particularly during the Research & Needs Analysis stage. The most popular resources are general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com. Because of the vast amount of useful information available from these digital sources, it’s easier than ever for customers to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before getting a vendor involved.

In 2014, only 41 percent of technical professionals are contacting a supplier in the early Research & Needs Analysis stage of their buy cycle. Thirty-eight percent wait until the Comparison & Evaluation stage and 21 percent don’t contact a vendor until they are ready to make a purchase.

The evolving nature of the buy cycle has a number of implications for suppliers, including:

  • You must connect with potential customers early in their buy cycle in order to be a contender later when they are ready to make a purchase decision. This means you must build and maintain a strong online presence on those digital resources your customers use most in the early buy cycle stages.
  • From a sales perspective, think of your digital presence as a way for potential customers to add themselves to the top of your sales funnel when they are searching for products and services. They will then engage with you as they advance through the funnel.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking if you choose not to provide relevant, educational content to customers early in their buy cycle, that they will contact you earlier in order to get that information. Instead what will happen is customers will forget about your company and instead focus their attention on those suppliers who are meeting their needs for content over digital channels.
  • You should publish a steady stream of content on digital channels for your prospects and customers, including blog posts, product information, white papers, webinars, videos, web pages, spec sheets and more. Your audience is eagerly searching for this content as they engage in their buy cycle.
  • Your digital presence is required to build brand awareness and visibility so that when a customer recognizes a need and begins their research, they will already have your company top of mind and be able to find you easily, which will increase your opportunities to be under consideration from the beginning of the buy cycle.
  • When a customer or prospect does contact you, they are likely to be more educated than the person who reaches out to a supplier at the beginning of their buy cycle. This fact may affect your processes for handling engagement opportunities. Some prospects may be more sales ready. Most of them will have specific questions at this point and want detailed information, including product availability, specifications, pricing, testimonials, ROI calculators and other content that will help them make a purchasing decision.
  • Technical professionals rely on different digital resources at different buy cycle stages, according to the research. General search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com have increased in importance to support the Research & Needs Analysis and the Comparison & Evaluation stages of the buy cycle. In the Purchase stage, industry-specific search engines and online catalogs increased in importance.

The industrial buy cycle has been around as long as there has been industrial commerce, but the nature of it continually evolves. Stay on top of the current evolution by creating a strong digital presence and providing technical professionals with the information they are looking for. To gain greater insight into your customers’ digital behavior, download a complimentary copy of the new IHS GlobalSpec research report 2014 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector.

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Find the Perfect Balance of Content in Your Marketing Efforts

Now that most industrial marketers are deploying a content management strategy, they’ve also discovered how much work it is to produce and publish content. There’s also the question of what type of content you should put out there.

content marketing800

Content types fit into one of three general categories. Thought leadership content that your company produces. Curated content that others produce and you share with your audience. And promotional content that focuses on your own products and services. Each type has its place in your content mix. There are no rigid rules about the mix, but we think a balance and appropriate breakdown looks something like this:

  • 30 percent thought leadership content
  • 50 percent curated content
  • 20 percent promotional content.

Thought Leadership Content

Thought leadership is original content produced by your internal team. It’s usually educational in nature. It’s always relevant to your audience. Thought leadership is powerful stuff because it:

  • Demonstrates your expertise in specific areas
  • Showcases your opinion and point of view on issues
  • Builds customer and market perceptions of your brand

Thought leadership content is also the hardest to produce. It requires the most resources in terms of generating ideas, writing, illustrating and more. It requires the most time and money. But you need to produce thought leadership as part of your content marketing strategy, and if only thirty percent of your content is thought leadership, you should be able to handle the effort especially if you repurpose your content in multiple formats. For example, a white paper can be the basis for a blog post or a product demo can evolve into a YouTube video.

Curated Content

To curate means to pull together, organize, sift through and select for presentation. Curating content from other sources and sharing it with your audience offers a number of benefits:

  • Requires fewer resources on your part to pull together
  • Faster to get it out because you don’t need to produce it
  • Gives your audience other perspectives
  • Also builds thought leadership because of what you choose to share and how you share it

If you’ve ever retweeted and commented on a link in Twitter, or shared an article on Facebook and added your commentary, then you’ve curated content. You’ve also gone one step further by adding context for your audience with your comment on what you’re sharing. That little extra—a comment added to the share—can help put your own spin on curated content.

You can easily discover content to curate. Follow other industry leaders and industry news sites. Track relevant hashtags on Twitter. Use Google Alerts to be notified when specific keywords appear in the news. Evaluate what you find and then share with your own audience what you consider to be the most useful and relevant content. If 50 percent of your content is curated, you’re letting others do a lot of the heavy lifting for you—and you’re working smarter.

Promotional Content

Because you share thought leadership and curated content you “earn” the right with your audience to publish promotional content. And by keeping the mix at 20 percent of your overall content, you are unlikely to anger your readers for occasionally tooting your own horn. They’re following you for a reason: they’re interested in what you have to say.

You need promotional content mixed in because you need ways to talk about new and updated products, or enhanced and expanded services. You need to get your target audience interested in what you sell. You need to make offers, generate engagement opportunities and keep your sales and marketing teams excited. And you can do all of this through content marketing, as long as you keep the percentage down.

Even promotional content can offer value. If you know your audience’s desires well, you can make your promotional content more targeted and increase the likelihood it will be accepted.

Where, What and How Often to Share

You have three basic choices on where to share content: your social media channels, corporate website or blog and e-newsletters. That’s a start. You may want to look at webinars, online events, banner advertising, press releases and third-party list rental to help promote your content to a wider audience.

What to share includes your own or third-party curated articles, blog posts, white papers, eBooks, presentations, videos, infographics and more.

How often should you share? As often as you can as long as your audience continues wanting to hear from you. If you find comments, likes and shares increasing on your content, you’ve got your audience’s interest. If people are dropping off, you’re sharing too much or what you’re sharing isn’t relevant. Find out what’s right for you.

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How do you find the right balance for your content marketing? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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